Pearls have long been a much desired gem. They are the only one that is made in a live animal, and as such have a beauty unsurpassed. A couple of legends are associated with how pearls are formed. One such legend says the moon makes their formation possible. Another ancient legend says that dewdrops filled with moonlight fell into the ocean and were swallowed by the oysters. This attempts to explain their inner luster.

There are a large number of different pearls, each with unique features. It is a matter of choice as to what type of pearls is desired by the customer. Many companies, such as PearlsOnly, have all types available, while others feature particular types. Shopping around will not only help find the desired type but will also help find the best price.

Pearls are somewhat delicate, requiring special care, but they last a very long time with the proper care. They are produced by a living organism and contain calcareous crystals that are sensitive to chemicals and acids. To protect your pearls, you need to avoid hairsprays, perfumes, and other such chemicals. Perspiration and citrus oils are also dangerous to pearls.

The pearls should be stored away from other jewelry to avoid damage. Human oils are beneficial, so pearls should be worn frequently to keep them lustrous. They should be cleaned and restrung annually, and wiped with a soft cloth after each wearing. Caring for you pearl in this way will keep them looking nice and protect them.

The types of pearls vary greatly, from cultured to natural to imitation. All are beautiful, but natural ones are the most attractive, though rare and quite expensive. Most all can be found at PearlsOnly and other pearl jewelers. Some of the types are the South Sea Pearls, such as Black Pearls, Keshi (very tiny natural ones), cultured, natural, and imitation pearls.

Pearls are graded according to their characteristics, based on a grid and characteristics as used by mainland Chinese traders. The grades are A, B, C, D, and F. Each grade has unique characteristics. These are the characteristics of each grade:

· A – shape, color, and luster are excellent, with no imperfections

· B – shape, color, and luster are very good, very minor surface imperfections

· C – shape, color, and luster are irregular, surface imperfections

· D – Same as C grade, but one or more characteristics extremely bad or irregular

· F – For promotional purposes only, not for jewelry use. Most is ground up and used in cosmetics

The American Gem Trade Association has a higher standard than the Federal Trade Commission Guide for enhancement and methods of enhancement. These enhancements are as follows:

· Natural (N) – Stones which are not enhanced

· Bleached – Heat, light, or other agents us to lighten or remove the gems color

· Dyed – Introducing color matter onto a pearl to give it new color, intensify its color, or improve its uniformity

· Irradiated (R) – Use of neutrons, gamma or beta rays to alter the color

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